Nokia Siemens Network unveiled a swathe of new products at Mobile World Congress 2012 and while some were designed to stake a claim to the emerging small cell market, most are targeted at helping operators optimise their networks.
NSN’s Thorsten Robrecht, Head of NWS Product Management Network Systems, told Wireless: ‘Liquid Net is the DNA of our activities. Everything we are doing on products and the operations around it is follow this principle and the principle of Liquid Net is to unleash the capacity inside the network.
‘It’s about how we make better use of the capacity that is already there, what type of new products will amend it and how we bring the flexibility that will make the best use of the network,’ he says.
Robrecht explains that this starts with core virtualisation. ‘There is bit of the cloud there, but Liquid Net is not the cloud. Yes, it makes sense to pool resources higher up in the network, but you also need more intelligence out there near the end user. Hence, our active antenna, which we launched last year. This year you will see different frequency variants and combinations of it.
‘We believe we are the only ones who really have beamforming active antennas in live environments. Sure, everyone is working on active antennas, but ours is commercial and selling in volumes. Active antennas have been around for years in the military, for example, but we need to bring it to the macro scale of the network in a cost-efficient way,’ argues Robrecht
Self Organising Network systems for the core
Next up is NSN’s latest development in self organising networks (SON). In 2011, NSN unveiled is SON radio package. The radio side is seen as the most complex part of the network because most of the elements in the radio are housed there and because of the difficulty in managing handovers and the interference cancellation requirements.
‘This year we taking the SON concept into the core network,’ says Robrecht. ‘A huge effort is needed on the core side to handle all the subscriber data, to maintain, operate and structure the network. You get a lot of human error there, so we can help minimise that by automating a lot of the maintenance, operation and structuring of the network.’
FlexiZone small cells
Small cells were very much the talking point at MWC this year and NSN sees them as playing a strong part in improving capacity and the end user experience. NSN has developed a rather different way of managing small cells that sets it apart from its rivals. The technology for this has come out of its acquisition of Motorola’s Wi-MAX and small cell technology, in which it was particularly strong.
Critical to the success of small cell architecture is how it is deployed within the macro network without getting drowned out by its more powerful big brother cells. NSN’s solution is its new FlexiZone small cell product.
‘It’s a true multi-radio with LTE, wideband CDMA and Wi-Fi connectivity,’ says Robrecht, ‘so you have three radio technologies radiated to your device. FlexiZone needs to connect to the macro network, either by Wi-Fi or TD-LTE, if you have the spectrum, or small microwave radio with NLOS (non-line of sight) connectivity between the elements, which we provide as part of this portfolio, or you can connect them with Ethernet if you have it.’
Aggregating small cells for easier management
The small cells can be pole or wall mounted and auto-connect and configure to the network once deployed. But if you add a huge amount of small cells that becomes difficult to manage inside the macro network. What NSN has done is aggregate all the small cells in to one point with the FlexiZone controller. By inserting a controller in between the small and macro cells, the effect is to make 100 small cells appear as one base station as far as the macro network is concerned.
‘The macro network sees one base station and that makes it manageable. The benefit is that you can properly arrange the interface between the small cells and the macro cells with interference cancellation between the cells a key part of that organisation,’ says Robrecht, who says the system is live in Chicago, although we will have to wait until Q1 2013 for full commercial availability depending on the frequency band required by the operator.
‘The operators are all queuing up for it, so I’m really happy about it,’ says Robrecht. ‘It’s a case of which frequency do you want and how do we prioritise it, but it really makes a difference this product. It is entirely different to buying a small cell product and adapting it. This is our own product offering with all the intelligence to provide efficient small cell coverage underneath the macro cell network.’
For NLOS backhaul, NSN has developed a microwave radio in the shape of a separate dish, which needs to be mounted along with the small cell, although Robrecht reiterates that it is just one option with Wi-Fi and TD-LTE among the others.
Indoor coverage solutions
Given that 80% or more of mobile data traffic originates indoors, NSN has not ignored indoor coverage. ‘We can do an indoor version of the small cell by linking it together with Ethernet and because they are Wi-Fi as well you can have LTE and Wi-Fi in the same cell,’ says Robrecht.
The other alternative is the residential indoor femtocell, a really small end user device in the home with Wi-Fi, 3G and LTE connectivity. Robrecht says that a range of new femtocell devices will be launched this year. ‘Femtocells have been around for five or six years, but with the growth of smart device data traffic there has been a renewed interest in femtocells. So, it is a kind of relaunch this year. It is potentially a very big market, so the price will come down as volumes grow.
HSPA+ Multiflow boosts edge connectivity
NSN, in conjunction with Qualcomm, also launched its wideband HSPA+ Multiflow system. Instead of having your phone connected to one base station. Multiflow enables the device to support simultaneous connections to two base stations. So, if a user moves from one side of their flat to the other it remains connected.
‘Previously you’d often lose connection at the edge of the cell as you moved across the room or building. This provides a 50% improvement in cell edge performance. It might sound like a little thing, but it is very important,’ says Robrecht.
Concluding, Robrecht highlights another approach being undertaken by Sky Plus in Brazil. ‘They are trying to add Wi-Fi for internet access as an additional play to their TV service. We are building a TD-LTE network for them and then supplying a TD-LTE to Wi-Fi box, which either goes outside or inside the house (two product versions are available).
‘Effectively they are offering Wi-Fi without going through any form of fixed network. That’s why we see the future as mobile broadband. Anything you want to do, you can do with mobile,’ says Robrecht.